Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Beta: This story would not be what it is today if not for the stupendous patster223.
A/N: In response to the yj_anon_meme prompt: "I'd really like a fic where Robin calls Batman 'Dad' or something of that nature please. That would just make my day."
A Father's Protection
"I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection."
- Sigmund Freud
Freezing and blind, Robin pushed at the wall of water surrounding him.
The heavy metal chains strapped to his ankles were dragging him deeper, and no amount of maneuvering and straining would loosen them. All he had managed to do was scrape his gloveless hands raw and tear more than a few nails.
It was at times like this when he really hated the Joker. The clown had rather unceremoniously tossed him into Gotham River, rambling on about "daddy bats" and "me or him." Under water for nearing two minutes, Robin could only think that right now it seemed more like him instead of me.
He'd been trying to keep a cool head, but the Joker had taken his belt and even his gloves when he had first caught him earlier in the night (the madman and his henchmen had set him up and he had stupidly missed all the signs of a trap until it was too late), long before he'd thrown him in the frigid water at the Gotham harbor. Now Robin had no access to any of the tools that he could use to escape from the heavy chains.
Despite his inability to escape, he continued struggling fruitlessly in the water, trying desperately to gain the ground that would bring him to the surface. But he only succeeded in sapping his remaining strength and wasting more air than he had to give.
The cold and lack of oxygen were wearing him down and he felt his movements becoming sluggish as his body slowly shut down. His thrashing was nearing nonexistent.
He went to close his eyes when a murky white light appeared in his line of vision. He blinked, confusion muddling his mind when the light approached, near enough for him to see it came from a submersible. The light flickered out of existence for a few seconds, coming back just as he dimly felt something impact him from behind. He turned; the light was casting oblong shadows over a face he thought he recognized from a distant memory. He couldn't place the image before his eyes drifted closed, and he could have sworn he was floating upwards.
He came back to consciousness with the harsh dispelling of liquid from his lungs. He was quickly turned on his side where he continued to throw up a mixture of river water and bile. It was only after he was done and his throat raw that he felt shivers wracking his body.
Pulled into a sitting position, something warm and comforting–a blanket–was thrown over his shoulders and big, muscled arms drew him into a protective embrace.
"Shh." A deep, familiar voice broke through his haze, speaking gruffly into his ear. "It's okay, Dick. Everything's okay now; don't worry." A large, callused hand ran carefully through his sopping hair, soothing.
A flash of the face in the water came back to him and he wrestled in the hold of the man. He had to see his face– he had to know if– "Dad?"
He managed to turn all the way around, vaguely feeling the grin form on his face, but felt it drop as reality hit. Instead of John Grayson he saw the face of Bruce Wayne–still in his Batman suit but cowl absent–looking back at him.
Bruce stared at him with something resembling regret in his eyes as Dick shrank back into his embrace, embarrassed and very much drained. The persistent shuddering troubling his body helped nothing.
Bruce tightened his grip, drawing him in closer, warming him to the best of his ability from their place on the hard asphalt.
Recognition of the ground beneath him sent a jolt through Dick as memory surged.
Sensing his question, Bruce automatically replied, "Down the pier, unconscious and hogtied. He's not going anywhere. I'll call PD when we're in the car."
"Good." Dick said, voice as strong and steady as he could manage with a raw throat and building shame.
He leaned into the support his mentor provided and closed his eyes, pretending, just for the moment, that these hard muscles surrounding him and that calloused hand running through his hair were John Grayson's. The small lie was helping him ignore the disgrace he felt for mistaking another for his father, even if Bruce Wayne had earned the right to share that title long ago.